Reefer retailing

Most of Mesa County, we expect, will sit out the marijuana retail mobilization that is about to get under way in much of Colorado.

Now that the state Department of Revenue has released regulations for the retail sales of recreational marijuana, which will be allowed beginning Jan. 1, there are no doubt many entrepreneurs putting together business plans and financing for the pot shops they hope to operate come 2014.

They have a legal right to do so under Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization measure approved by Colorado voters last November. Now that the state has released the rules, they’ll have time to gear up their businesses, while waiting to see if new taxes on pot are approved by voters this fall.

But don’t expect much reefer retailing in Mesa County. Later this month, the Grand Junction City Council and Mesa County commissioners are to vote on whether to allow retail pot outlets within their jurisdictions. Since both of these local governments and the city of Fruita have already banned medical marijuana dispensaries within their boundaries, few people expect them to approve retail outlets for recreational marijuana.

The question is whether the single medical marijuana dispensary in Mesa County, located in Palisade, will seek to become a recreational marijuana outlet and, if so, whether the Palisade Town Board of Trustees will allow it.

Colorado and Washington state are sort of national petri dishes in our grand experiment with legalized marijuana. As a news story earlier this week highlighted, the U.S. population appears more and more willing to accept legalization.

The Daily Sentinel did not support Amendment 64 for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the clear conflict it places Colorado law enforcement in with respect to federal law.

Furthermore, there are more serious problems associated with continuous use of pot that many of its advocates don’t like to admit. Just this week, a prominent Yale doctor wrote in The Wall Street Journal about research linking chronic marijuana use and schitzophrenia.

But advocates of legalization have always had a strong argument in their favor. That is the utter failure of Prohibition with respect to alcohol.

The adverse affects of alcohol, both to societal and individual health, were well known long before this country approved Prohibition in 1919. Many people believed it would be a cure-all for those problems. Some communities even sold their jails, believing crime would be eliminated once alcohol was banned.

Of course the opposite occurred. Organized crime exploded, and average citizens became more willing to break the law than ever before. And, while per-capita consumption of alcohol initially dropped, it rose rapidly after the first few years of Prohibition. It remained flat for many years after Prohibition ended.

While there may be an initial spike in marijuana purchases once the retail outlets begin operating, we don’t expect much of a long-term change in per-capita marijuana use.

After all, once the illegal thrill is gone, marijuana is just another product on the shelf.


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